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Column: Losing more than medals at Olympics

Wednesday - 8/8/2012, 6:46pm  ET

By TIM DAHLBERG
AP Sportd s Columnist

LONDON (AP) - It wasn't exactly a race to celebrate back home, though Rene Herrera of the Philippines did manage to set a personal best in a men's 5,000-meter heat Wednesday at the Olympic stadium.

That he finished dead last, 43 seconds behind the next finisher hardly mattered. He was an Olympian, even if the Olympics offer a most uneven playing field for most countries.

There are 204 of them in London _ 11 more than in the United Nations _ and most will go home "losers." While the U.S. and China dominate the medal tables, 128 countries have yet to win one _ and probably won't. That includes the Philippines, which hasn't won a medal since boxer Mansueto Velasco got a silver in 1996 in Atlanta.

The list of "losers" at this Olympics is long, indeed, but it goes far beyond the medals table:

DOWN, DOWN UNDER: If there's anything that makes the British as happy as seeing their country hauling in Olympic medals, it's making fun of Australia for its dismal performance in London. Australia _ which averaged 16 golds the last three games _ had only five gold medals through Wednesday, prompting the country's sports minister to concede a medals bet with her British counterpart with five days left for the games. The joke down under is that there's a new malady called Australian Thumb, caused by people having to scroll too far down on their smart phones to find the country on the medal table.

FRENCH WHEELS: There's no loser like a sore loser. The French were having a hard enough time digesting Britain's dominance when they fell for a line from British cycling chief Dave Brailsford that the country had "specially round wheels" on its bikes. French cycling officials were so suspicious of the fast British times, they called for a close look at the British bikes and their magic wheels. Of course, the two countries were already at odds over London sweeping in to win the right to host games when Paris had been considered the leading contender.

U.S. BOXERS: Miserable in Beijing, horrible in London. They used to steal medals from U.S. boxers, but now they're so bad there's no need. There were nine U.S. men competing in Olympic boxing _ the most of any country _ and they couldn't bring home a single medal for the first time in history. USA Boxing is so dysfunctional the team had no coach just a few weeks before the Olympics, and rejected an offer by noted trainer Freddie Roach to work with its young charges. Thank goodness for the U.S. women punching their way to wins in Olympic boxing's newest event. While the men won no medals at all, two of the three women will head home with a medal, and 17-year-old middleweight Claressa Shields _ who throws a left hook like the late Joe Frazier _ has a chance to do what Frazier did in 1964 and win gold.

WOMEN BOXERS: They're stealing the show in London, but they're still struggling to get respect. While men compete in nine different weight classes, women are consigned to just three, meaning some must gain or lose considerable weight to fit into a category. That's largely because the IOC doesn't want to add more athletes to the games, but the same organization has approved a full field for golf, of all things, at the 2016 Rio Games.

LOLO JONES: Her Olympic disappointment in Beijing _ where she was leading before hitting a hurdle late _ would have been enough for any athlete. But London was especially cruel, even though she had a season-best time in finishing fourth in the 100-meter hurdles. Jones wasn't unhappy with her race, but she broke down during an appearance on NBC's "Today" show when asked about published reports suggesting she was a shameless marketer of herself, more image than substance. "They should be supporting our U.S. Olympic athletes and instead they just ripped me to shreds," Jones said tearfully.

KOBE BRYANT: Where's Kobe? Everywhere it seems but on the basketball court. Bryant has been enjoying his Olympics, watching tennis at Centre Court at Wimbledon, seeing the U.S. women's basketball team beat up on other countries and sitting with his family at the pool when Michael Phelps was swimming. But the player who was counted on to carry the U.S. team in Beijing has been a no-show on the court, where he looks a step slow and out of sync with the rest of the U.S. superstars. He's averaging only about 9 points and is the only player on Team USA shooting under 40 percent. Not to worry, says Bryant, he's ready if needed. "Scoring is what I do," he said. "I can score in my sleep."

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